The Psychology Of Open Carry

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 4 weeks ago

Denver Post:

It’s been 18 months since I stood in line behind the guy at the Safeway a mile from my house. He was older — in his 70s, I guessed. He wore jeans, yellow and red running shoes, a ball cap and a green lightweight jacket, the hood bunched up behind his head. Oh, and he also wore a gun.

It rested inside a tanned leather holster on his left hip, the rain jacket intentionally tucked behind the holster, it seemed, so everyone could see it. The gun had a black grip and a glistening silver steel back.

People were staring and moving slowly to other lines and no one even whispered, just shuffling away in silence, two women and a man, pushing their carts to nearby queues. There was, no doubt, a sense of fear.

I stayed there behind the man with the cat food and dog food and two kinds of cheese, a box of cereal and the black and silver weapon.

Then he turned and caught me staring at the gun. I felt awkward, scared maybe, and he said, “What’s up?” in a pleasant-enough voice, the way you would when seeing a friend.

“Just looking at your gun,” I babbled, having decided a split second earlier not to lie to him because, well, he had a gun.

And I did not — definitely did not — want to say what I was really thinking, which was: “Who carries a handgun to buy cheese?”

He never replied to my “Just looking at your gun” blurt and seconds later he had bags in his hands and off he went, to wherever guys go with handguns on their trousers on a Saturday morning in Colorado.

Oh, and I also remember quite vividly having this thought: He must be a nut.

I’m not alone.

The town of Castle Rock, for example, is now looking to repeal its ban on the open carry of firearms in town-owned and operated buildings, along with parks, trails and open spaces.

From a YourHub.com story last week: “In September, some residents raised concern that allowing open carry … could create panic in public places.”

That sentiment goes to the heart of the issue. The cold truth is when the average Joe or Joan Schmo sees someone with a gun, outside of a hunting situation, we think bad things. We think the gun-carrier is not right in the head. A few ants short of a picnic. Maybe a jerk getting a self-esteem boost by carrying a fearsome killing weapon. To buy dog food.

The author doesn’t understand open carry.  Nor does he understand his own psychological framework for understanding his reaction.  I open carry when I can because it’s such a pain to conceal, and because it’s an uncomfortable experience at best.  If you decide that you are going to be prepared for self defense, then that’s the controlling decision.  It isn’t fun or intimidating.  It’s a discipline you must develop, and buying dog food may just be the very time that you need protection.  A grocery store in my own home town was recently the target of crimes, and not just a couple.  This food store chain both prohibited carrying of weapons (disarming innocent people) and suffered multiple crimes at multiple stores from gangsters carrying concealed weapons.

Whether it’s comfortable or not, if you’ve decided that you’re going to carry, then that’s what you do.  But it’s always better to be comfortable rather than not, and thus, open carry appeals to some of us.  Also, the man who was carrying in the article was openly carrying for legal reasons.  He probably didn’t bring along his concealed handgun permit, and thus any concealment would have made him in violation of the law.  It has nothing to do with trying to intimidate people.

As I’ve said before, folks where I come from don’t seem to mind when I open carry.  The writer is projecting his own psychology onto everyone else.  But it is his own psychology that is the interesting part of this article.  It is inescapable.  What he is saying is that he would rather not know if someone is carrying a weapon.  Oh, someone may be carrying around him and probably is, but he would rather not know it.  Ignorance is bliss in his world.  Ignorance doesn’t make it safer, it just means that he doesn’t know what is going on around him.

  • Paul B

    Got my first shoulder holster. Other that requiring a cover garment I think I like it. It is definitely more comfortable that IWB in any position.

    My regular carry is a Bersa 380 Thunder, which is fairly easy to carry.

  • jean

    My take on the open carry guy at “Safeway”…well safeway isn’t that safe anymore. It is sad that we as citizens no longer feel safe doing routine day to day activities…buying dog food, going to the store, opening our door at night, that’s the world we live in, therefore we have adapted. If the author of that article or whatever you want to call it : soft piece ficiton or an info war, chooses to walk around unprepared and unarmed, we will step over his body and move on, I would stop and help, but I have been instructed by counsel not to violate your right to be murdered or robbed…sorry dude. BTW , you are what we refer to as a soft target.

  • Yuri

    Quote: “It rested inside a tanned leather holster on his left hip, the rain jacket intentionally tucked behind the holster, it seemed, so everyone could see it.”

    Without a concealed carry permit, the gun would have to stay in plain sight. So yes.. it was intentional, and in accordance with the law.

  • http://blogxcelncaward.blogspot.com/ Richard Medicus

    Seeing someone that open carries should remind one that a heightened awareness of all of one surroundings is always important. He has a gun that can seen, but what about the guy behind you that you have not noticed that has a gun that is not seen. Did you seen those 10 or 15 black kids that suddenly and quickly came through the front door with their hoods up. Don’t lose track of what is going on around you.

  • Justin Kopetsky

    This is a reaction from a typical person that assumes that personal safety is not their responsibility. This type of individual wrongly assumes that the state is there to protect them and that they, therefore, can abrogate all responsibility of the matter to the local police force or the NSA.

    Which is where the fear comes from.

    It’s a fear not of the firearm or the person carrying it, but fear based in their conscious choice to depend on others for their personal protection. We all know that we are ultimately responsible for keeping ourselves and our family safe, but people like the author are able to put it out of their mind until confronted with the reality of a person taking on that very real responsibility.

  • Michael

    It seems clear to me that the author has never had to deal with any threat to life or property (his or that of his family). He is living in a fantasyland, where bad things never happen in public places. For a guy living in Colorado, home of the movie theater slaughter, you’d think he would be appreciative that some of his neighbors consider the possibility that something might go wrong without warning at an unexpected time.

  • Dennis

    Up here in the Last Frontier we carry all kinds of things in the open. No not that…. We may carry concealed or open (no permit required), rifle shotgun…. whatever suits our fancy. We are very polite about it too.

    Last summer outside a movie theater I saw a dog tied up in the back of a pick up. he had drug the giant piece of tree trunk close to the tail gate and was attempting to dismount. Well his tether was not long enough to get him the ground safely so I stood and talked to the poor guy for bit, tried the Animal Control people cause I didn’t want the poor dog to hang himself. Well I finally called the police and they came. Since I do have a permit and it is the law for everyone we have to inform the officer. So I told the officer that I have a permit and I am armed. He said that’s ok. If you don’t pull yours I won’t pull mine, I said deal and we both laughed.

    The point here is, no one has to react like there is bad things going on when there is not. People choose to react how they do. I am not the cause of their negative condition and I am not responsible for their state of whimper. It is not the governments duty or right to enforce their sense of reality on me when the situation does not warrant it. It is called “the reasonable man test”. Law says it is lawful to carry, a reasonable man will not see an issue with someone carrying. If he does and there is no reason outside his own neurosis, then if the person reacts negatively I am not to blame, I have fulfilled my duty not to frighten him buy not having it our and foolishly playing with the thing or carrying it in my hand in a negligent manner.

    Folks you got to cowboy up. I like this old Hindu Proverb, it goes like this:

    “If you feed a serpent milk, you only increase it’s venom.”

    We have bent to their will for so long we have conditioned these poor a$$es to expect us to jump when they whimper. If you can carry openly do so, be friendly with those you meet. Let them question you about it and let them know that you are doing so that the people in the community will know and respect you and your right and that you pose no threat to law abiding folk.

    Know your numbers, let them know just how many lives are saved and crimes thwarted by people being armed. Let them know that an armed society is a deterrent to crime and that even law enforcement just recently have encouraged citizens to acquire and learn firearms proficiency. Remind them that the head cop from Interpol within the past year said that the best way to deter terrorism is to have an armed society.

    You are our ambassador. Everyone of you carries the responsibility to tell the people the truth. God’s command to Samuel was to be a watchman and tell the people of the bad things on the way. If you do and they don’t listen you are good, if not your blood is required. Our relations with our neighbors is important, those with the politicians is not. If they are on our side, the politicians don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. Time to turn up the heat….

  • BHirsh

    Personally, I prefer the option. Most days concealed is OK, but some days it’s downright inconvenient.

    The point is, carry is a fundamental right that enjoys constitutional protection. Nitpicking how someone exercises it is useless meddling for its own sake.


You are currently reading "The Psychology Of Open Carry", entry #11689 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Guns and was published December 30th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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